Ed Driscoll

Progress: You're Doing it Wrong, Vermont

“Vermont Sees Surge in Heroin Use,” William Bigelow writes at Big Government. If Vermont seems like it’s tilting further and further left each year, until it collapses and can’t regain its footing, perhaps Bigelow’s post explains one reason why:

As unlikely as it may seem, a prime area for heroin users is now the sleepy state of Vermont. On Wednesday, [Democrat] Gov. Peter Shumlin’s entire State of the State address was devoted to what he called Vermont’s “full blown heroin crisis.” Vermont now has the highest rate of illicit drug use in the United States.

According to 2010-2011 surveys from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 15% of the Vermonters surveyed said they had used illicit drugs in the month prior to the survey. In 2000, the number of Vermonters treated for heroin abuse was 399; in 2012, the number had exploded to 3,479.

Users in the 25-34 age group, which numbered less than 200 in 2000, skyrocketed to roughly 1,800 by 2012, the greatest growth among different age groups. Rutland, Vermont’s police chief James Baker told Vermont newspaper Seven Days that one reason for the growth of heroin in the state is that drug dealers can sell a bag of heroin for $30 in Vermont as opposed to the $5 they would get in a big city, where dealers are plentiful. Another reason is that Vermont is close to Montreal, so drug dealers traveling from Canada find it an easy stop along their route.

Vermont didn’t always used to be a heroin-soaked bastion of the far left; At the start of a December 2005 column, Mark Steyn quoted a line from a 1954 holiday classic movie that must now play like science fiction to contemporary American audiences:

A few months before the debut of National Review, the film White Christmas was released, in the course of which Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby find themselves sitting around a floundering Vermont inn wondering what they can do to save it. Kaye proposes bringing in some kind of novelty act.

Crosby: What do you think would be a novelty up here in Vermont? Kaye: Who knows? Maybe we could dig up a Democrat. Crosby: They’d stone him.

A lot can change in fifty years — and it would be a rash man who’d bet on the political map of America in another half-century.

Indeed. The prior year at Tech Central Station, C.C. Kraemer looked at the “Green Mountain Statists:”

Vermont is a paradox. It’s a relatively poor state filled with low-income families who can use the price breaks brought by discount retailers. But it’s also a playground for wealthy progressives and elitists who tend to be concentrated in the Burlington area. They began flocking to state three decades ago because they saw an opportunity to take control of Vermont’s policy-making process and force through a progressive agenda.

Though their wealth is a product of our capitalist, free-market system, these left-leaning relative newcomers see development and economic advancement as threats to Vermont’s rural and quaint small-town flavor. That puts them at odds with much of the more deeply rooted populace that shares neither the elitists’ wealth nor their values. As such it becomes clear why the state is the perfect location for the escalating culture clash over Wal-Mart.

There’s no need to guess where the National Trust for Historic Preservation comes down on the Wal-Mart culture conflict. Each year this private nonprofit lists what it considers the nation’s “most endangered historic places.” Through its history, the Trust has, by its own account, “identified more than 160 one-of-a-kind historic treasures threatened by neglect, insufficient funds, inappropriate development, or insensitive public policy.”

This year, for the second time, the Trust put the entire state of Vermont on its list of the nation’s 11 most endangered places — this time solely to stop Wal-Mart from expanding across the state.

Mark Steyn’s column goes on to note that Howard Dean, who had then just recently made the transition from Vermont’s Democrat governor to botched presidential bid to chairman of the Democrat party, was more with winning the war against bike paths than winning what was then called, in those happy carefree days, the War on Terror:

It’s not just that Vermont has been Democratized, but that the Democratic party has been Vermontified — a process encapsulated in Howard Dean’s explanation to George Stephanopoulos as to why he left the church he was raised in and became a Congregationalist:

“I had a big fight with a local Episcopal church about 25 years ago over the bike path.”

He had a “big fight” over a bike path? Apparently so. “I was fighting to have public access to the waterfront, and we were fighting very hard in the citizens’ group,” he told Judy Woodruff. Fighting, fighting, fighting — for a bike path. Dean’s church had strayed from the gently undulating and narrow. The road to hell is paved, whereas the shared-use trail to hell has attractive wood chips.

* * * * * * * *

That’s what David Brooks got wrong in Bobos in Paradise. He visited Burlington and other “latte towns” and concluded that they were “relatively apolitical.” What he took as the evidence of lack of politics — bike paths, independent bookstores, skinny espressos — is the politics, albeit a lo-fat version. The pre–Tony Blair Labour party believed it needed to control “the commanding heights of the economy.” The pre-Gorbachev Communist party wanted to control the commanding heights of everything. But the big-picture Left collapsed in 1989, and for a Vermontified Democratic party small is the new big. That’s what Bill Clinton had in mind when he said the era of big government was over; instead, he’d be ushering in the era of small government, lots and lots of it, all over the place, like a map of America repainted by Seurat — and, when you add up all the little dots, you find out that small government works out far more expensive than big government. Thus, the Clinton legacy is all small print, starting with the federal toilet-tank legislation: He’s the first president to flush himself down the toilet of history.

Flash-forward to the America of President Obama in 2014: Pot is legal in Colorado, smack is rampant in once-bucolic Vermont, transgendered bathrooms are an obsession with Jerry Brown and his fellow Democrats in Sacramento, but incandescent light bulbs and 3.5-gallon-per-flush toilets are right out.

The year before Crosby and Danny Kaye’s White Christmas debuted, Bertolt Brecht famously quipped, “wouldn’t it be simpler if the Government simply dissolved the people and elected another?” No need to do even that, when you can simply rewire the people to share your worldview.

Marx famously said that religion was the opiate of the masses; for his fellow leftists, building a Leviathan state is their metaphorical opiate. But apparently they need plenty of the real thing to get by in the world they created for themselves. This doesn’t sound like a future that will end well for any of us.

Related: “Behold my display of the 2013 Federal Register: 80,000 pages of regulations,” Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) writes at Facebook: